I choose roma tomatoes and romaine lettuce because I knew both ingredients could take some heat without wilting and falling apart. Next I decided to make dumplings for the top rather than croutons. I thought dumplings would be richer and more filling than croutons -- plus the creamy texture paired nicely with the crunch of the romaine.
Makes two servings.
For the salad:
4-6 roma tomatoes (blanched, peeled, and halved)
4 sprigs of fresh oregano
1 whole heart of romaine lettuce (split lengthwise)
Toss tomatoes together with a few tablespoons of olive oil and the fresh herbs. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. I roasted the garlic for the dumplings at the same time. Pop the tomatoes under the broiler for a few minutes to get some color on them before serving. Get a cast iron grill pan screaming-hot on your stovetop. Dress romaine with equal parts balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Grill each piece cut-side-down for a few minutes or until nicely charred. This is where a lot of the nice smoke flavor comes from. You will know you're doing it right if the smoke alarm goes off right in the middle of making this.
For the ricotta dumplings:
1 small head of garlic (roasted until soft)
1/2 cup ricotta
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
Mix roasted garlic, ricotta, egg, and salt until well incorporated. Fold the flour into the cheese mixture. The more you mix it the tougher the dumplings will be so be judicious about it. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pat dough into a 1/4-inch thick cake on your floured work surface then cut into 1/2 inch cubes using a pastry cutter or butcher knife. Drop the dumplings into the boiling water and keep an eye on them. Once they float to the top, they are ready to be removed and drained. For a crunchy texture, sear them in a hot pan with some olive oil for just a few minutes.
To plate this dish, place a piece of grilled romaine next to a few roasted tomatoes. Top that with some fresh ricotta dumplings, a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and a little grated parmesan cheese.
Salad will never be the same.